Much to celebrate
Each year on 25 April the global community comes together to commemorate World Malaria Day; celebrating progress made and highlighting areas for continued investment. The 2017 World Malaria Day Report released by the World Health Organization shows that scaled up prevention efforts (insecticide-treated mosquito nets, indoor residual spraying of insecticides and prevention therapies for pregnant women and children) have worked in reducing the number of malaria cases and deaths globally. In Africa, the region most affected by malaria, cases fell by 21% and deaths by 31%.
This is good news for sustainable global development. Advances in malaria prevention have a positive impact on poverty reduction, improved food security, improved gender equality (as women and girls are freed up from looking after sick relatives and can participate more fully in the work force or remain in school) and economic development generally. Businesses also benefit through healthier and more productive workforces, reduced costs of doing business, enhanced reputation and increased competitiveness (rollbackmalaria.org).
But it’s not over yet
Despite the progress discussed above malaria is still claiming the lives of many people in Africa (394 000 deaths in 2015, mostly young children) and causing havoc to development. The World Health Organisations says this is because many people in endemic low-income countries have no access to the tools that prevent, diagnose and treat malaria. Clearly there is still much work to be done to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of ensuring that malaria is eliminated as a public health threat by 2030.
This World Malaria Day we look at two companies from the SWHAP network who are doing their bit to prevent malaria and provide wider access to diagnosis. For the SWHAP partners, addressing malaria within the context of HIV and wellness programmes is also important as the disease has a negative impact on HIV, increasing viral load.
Sandvik Zambia: Equipping Peer Educators to conduct onsite Rapid Diagnostic Testing for malaria
Sandvik Zambia started its HIV programme in 2005 and has since implemented a comprehensive programme offering treatment, care and support for employees and their families. In recent years, the company developed a wellness strategy and policy addressing other health concerns faced by employees and the local community such as malaria.
Malaria is a major public health and development concern in Zambia affecting more than four million Zambians annually and accounting for 36% of hospitalisations and outpatient visits (www.nmcc.org.zm).
Between August 2015 and July 2016, 17 employees at Sandvik were admitted to hospital because of malaria. As a consequence of the disease the company lost 384 work hours (equivalent to 48 days) as well as hospital claims in excess of US$4 000.
In response to the challenges posed by malaria on its workforce, Sandvik trained 10 Peer Educators on how to conduct and interpret malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs). The training was held in partnership with the Kitwe Central Hospital. The RDT uses the finger prick method with antigens showing the presence of malaria parasites in the blood. The tests are included as part of the regular biometric screening (glucose, temperature and blood pressure) that takes place at the workplace.
Objectives of the programme
- To provide early and accurate diagnosis of malaria. This is important as it reduces the disease, prevents deaths and contributes to reduced malaria transmission within communities
- To improve the health of the workforce
As a result of the training Peer Educators were able to conduct early tests for malaria at the workplace and refer people for early treatment. This has resulted in:
- Reduction in hospital admissions. Between August and October 2016 Sandvik were able to report zero admissions due to malaria.
- Reduction in lost work hours
- Increased awareness on wellness.
- Capacity building for Peer Educators
- A happier workforce
Key success factors
- The initiative is part of Sandvik’ s comprehensive workplace HIV and wellness programme, which includes other malaria prevention measures. The company distributes treated bed nets, runs regular awareness raising programmes, environmental clean-up campaigns (reduces concentration of larvae and mosquitoes), distributes insect repellent to employees on night shift and supports community testing projects.
- Partnerships with the Ministry of Health through the Kitwe Central Hospital and the local District Health Office helped to provide the know-how, technical support, quality control and an outlet for disposal of medical waste.
Ericsson DRC – Arming families with cost-effective tools for malaria diagnosis
Malaria is the principle cause of morbidity and mortality in the DRC. It is estimated that the country accounts for 11% of all Plasmodium falciparum (the most dangerous form of malaria) cases in sub-Saharan Africa (www.pmi.gov). The Government with support from international and local partners has made considerable progress in addressing malaria in the country but where 97% of the population lives in zones with stable transmission lasting 8-12 months of the year, eliminating malaria is quite a challenge. Additionally, the size of the country, infrastructural challenges, a struggling healthcare system with frequent drug stock-outs mean that access to health care in general and malaria prevention and treatment in particular is a challenge for most citizens.
Malaria is a frequently recurring disease and cumulatively results in much lost work over time. Additionally, the disease most impacts those under the age of five resulting in employees taking time off work to look after dependants. During the process of establishing their workplace programme baseline Ericsson found that the they had a high incidence of malaria (12%).
The company wanted a comprehensive solution. So, in addition to organising sensitisation for employees on environmental sanitation, waste management, promotion of treated bed nets, and regular malaria screening they also trained the spouses of employees on how to conduct and interpret malaria RDTs at family level.
Objectives of the programme
- Improve the knowledge of Ericsson employees and their dependents on the means of diagnosing malaria
- Raise awareness among Ericsson employees and their dependents on how malaria is transmitted and how it can be prevented
- Provide access to better prevention and treatment for malaria for employees and their families
- Encourage employees and their families to adopt better health seeking behaviors in the event of malaria.
- Seven spouses were trained meaning seven families were facilitated to provide early diagnose for malaria.
- The training also closed the gap in knowledge between spouses regarding the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets and the importance of sanitation at household and community level in preventing malaria.
- Malaria RDTs are an effective tool to diagnose malaria in resource-limited settings
- Sanitation is an important factor in preventing mosquitos from breeding
- The use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets is an effective tool for malaria prevention especially among young children
- More awareness sessions are needed on malaria transmission, the life cycle of the mosquito and on the longevity of insecticide-treated mosquito nets.
Key Success Factors
- Strong partnerships with CIELS (the local business coalition) and PSI facilitated the exchange of technical support, supply of RDTs, and insecticide-treated mosquito nets at a subsided rate.
- Management commitment and participation in the intervention motivated the employees to engage in malaria prevention efforts.
- The general success of the programme at Ericsson DRC is due to the close collaboration between employees, union and management.